How to Debone a Whole Chicken for Chicken Ballotine or Galantine; My Daring Cooks Challenge

Before I say one word about deboning a whole chicken, a warning: Vegetarians and vegans (In my best Melissa McCarthy impersonation) LOOK AWAY! LOOK AWAY!

How to debone a whole Chicken with Minimal Cutting and Chicken Ballotine with Red Rice Stuffing

Make No Bones About It!

We’re deboning a chicken, here!

They’re not dead..just boneless. Created by Gary Larson.

So, I’m hosting the April Daring Cooks Challenge.  If you recall, I’ve hosted a few other Daring Kitchen Challenges, my first being Cannoli, way back in late 2009..then Cassoulet in late 2010, and finally, Tempering Chocolate and Homemade Candy in the summer of 2011, with Mandy.  But, this challenge just may be the most ambitious one.  I wasn’t sure if many would take part, but not only did many take part, they completely kicked butt!  My fellow Daring Cooks are amazing!

As you already know by the title of this post, the challenge was to debone a whole chicken.  and do it using the method by Jacques Pepin in the video below. Then they’re to stuff it with a stuffing of their choice, roll it, tie (truss) it, and roast or poach it, for a Chicken Ballotine or Galantine.

I used Jacques’ Red Rice Stuffing, but the variety of stuffings my fellow Daring Cooks came up with are spectacular! I was drooling every time someone posted their challenge in the completed challenge thread!

How to debone a whole Chicken with Minimal Cutting and Chicken Ballotine with Red Rice Stuffing

Back in the mid-90’s, I watched about 7 hours of Jacques Pepin’s ‘Complete Cooking Techniques’ on PBS one rainy Sunday.  I never ordered the VHS set they were hawking, which turned out to be a good thing since the amount of bulky tapes (like 10 or more) would have taken up far too much space, not to mention, I would have never been able to sell them on ebay once I purchased the set on DVD in 2006.  2006 was also the first time I deboned a whole chicken after watching Jacques do it approximately 20 times.  I stood up and said to no one in particular;

“I’m doing this.”

Well, I did it, and I was amazed I did it, and since then, I can’t stop doing it.

I told Lis about this when we were discussing daring challenge ideas, and here we are today.

I wanted to share this incredible skill and inspire everyone to venture miles out of their comfort zone so they too could master this amazing skill, and impress the heck out of everyone when they place it on the table and slice it up.  But that’s just the beginning, because once you taste it, it’s an mind and palate-blowing moment.  This takes chicken to an almost surreal, unheard of level , and some said they may never roast chicken on the bone again.  I know bones are flavor, but in this case, I think the absence of the bones leads to the juices of the chicken basting the stuffing in a way that permeates the whole chicken, giving the chicken a flavor and texture that’s completely different (and even more amazing) than your basic, bone-in, stuffed and roasted chicken.

Having said all that, I’m posting the challenge as I did at the Daring Kitchen, and I would love it if you would all join in!  It’s rewarding, impressive, obscenely flavorful, AND, the best part; the chicken has a slightly new taste to it once deboned, stuffed, tied (trussed), and roasted.  I can’t explain it, but, as mentioned above, you’ll never taste a chicken (or any poultry, like some Daring Cooks tackled ie: duck, turkey and partridge!) this GOOD.

How to debone a whole Chicken with Minimal Cutting and Chicken Ballotine with Red Rice Stuffing

In fact, this chicken is so good that I told everyone they could eat the front end of it before I took slice photos.  Since I’ve made this several times before, I know how incredible it is and couldn’t resist a sliver myself.  Before I knew it, a little more than half the Ballotine was gone, leaving me with mostly back end slices, and cries of ‘Hurry up and take those photos, we want to finish it!” So, I got one slice of white meat with the stuffing smack in the middle, and the rest, as already mentioned, was the back end for photographs.

It was worth it, and the back end was gone within minutes of the last click.

I’m so thrilled with everyone who threw all trepidation to the wind and tackled this challenge with intensity and gusto.  I can’t tell you how great it was see comments like this;

Without this challenge, I can assure you the odds are quite high that I would have lived my life without ever deboning a chicken. The end result was amazing! Thank you!  – Renee

The best part is, most everyone wants to do it again and again, and some already have! I hope this propels some of you to go for it.  I can almost guarantee you will end up loving it and thinking – this was so much easier than I thought it would be, and the end result was otherworldly!

One more thing. I decided to nix my ‘pile o’ bones’ photo because it’ was already looking a little like an abattoir in here with my ‘Silence of the Lambs, Chicken’‘ glamour shot.  I didn’t want to gross out those who might be squeamish.  It’s a pretty gnarly photo.

With ALL that said, here’s the challenge. Hope you enjoy it!

How to debone a whole Chicken with Minimal Cutting and Chicken Ballotine with Red Rice Stuffing

Are you ready to get really DARING? Well, I’ve got the challenge for you, and although it may seem daunting, it really isn’t because once you do it once, you’ll want to do it again and again, and you’ll get better and better at it. It’s also a rewarding skill that you’ll have in your culinary arsenal forever. We’re going to debone (I actually call it boning out a chicken, but Jacques Pepin calls it deboning, and who am I to argue with the master?) a whole chicken, stuff it, tie it (truss it), then roast it to create a Chicken Ballotine also known as a Ballotine of Chicken also known as a Poule en Saucisse.

You may have also heard of a Chicken Galantine, and some think it’s the same thing, but the difference between a Chicken Ballotine (some call it Ballantine) and a Chicken Galantine is the cooking and serving method. Galantine is a deboned, stuffed chicken that is tied (trussed), rolled in a cloth, simmered in stock or braised, then served cold. It’s also commonly stuffed with forcemeat. If you’d prefer to poach your chicken, by all means, go right ahead, but I’m only providing the recipe for Chicken Ballotine, which is tied (trussed) and roasted. I have linked a Chicken Galantine recipe at the end of this post, in case you’re interested.

So, exactly what is a Ballotine (Ballantine)? The definition of Ballotine, according to Larousse Gastronomique, is: Meat, fowl, game or fish which is boned, stuffed and rolled into a bundle.

How to debone a whole Chicken with Minimal Cutting and Chicken Ballotine with Red Rice Stuffing

Here’s the fun and unique part of this challenge: it’s a challenge by video. The video is by Jacques Pepin, whom I’ve admired and learned so much from the past 15 plus years. The man is a demigod in the kitchen, and a wonderful teacher as well. He makes it easy and uncomplicated, and it’s pure art the way he skillfully bones out the chicken with smooth, surgical precision. I’m still in awe every time I watch this video. You will be too.

I think this is the best method for deboning a chicken because outside of the scraping of the leg bones, it involves minimal cutting. You cut, then pull the chicken from the carcass and bones as you go along, but you must use a very sharp knife. I use a VERY sharp paring knife because I’m more comfortable with the size, and it works beautifully. In fact, I 100% recommend using a small knife, even a little smaller than the one he uses in the video since you have more control, and it’s safer. For us women, it’s ideal for our dainty hands.

How to debone a whole Chicken with Minimal Cutting and Chicken Ballotine with Red Rice StuffingI usually rub a chicken with compound butter before roasting, but this time I used oil.  Uneven color and a little burned on the side.  Back to compound butter from hereon in!

Since you will be following the video step-by-step, you will end up rewinding each step several times, as I did the first time I tried it. When I first did it, years ago, I was watching it on my Jacques Pepin Complete Techniques DVD set, so I kept running back and forth from the table to the TV, washing my hands each time.

I know. Crazy.

Since you’ll be watching it online, I recommend placing your laptop or Ipad, or whatever you use, on a table next to the one that you’re deboning the chicken on. When you need to rewind, wrap your fingers/hand in a clean towel, or latex free gloves, to do so (UPDATE:  Renata came up with a great idea! Place plastic wrap over your keyboard and mouse!). You can wash your hands every time you need to rewind, but trust me, unless you already have experience boning out a whole chicken, it can get tedious because you may be rewinding a lot!

The first time I deboned a chicken, it took me about an hour. Don’t worry about the time it takes to do this since not many, outside of Jacques (and Martin Yan) can debone a whole chicken in one minute. Please do NOT try to achieve that! That would be a crazy to attempt, considering you have only 5 minutes of a chicken deboning skill under your belt as opposed to their 30 plus years . Like with everything in life, the more you do it, the better you get at it. I’m down to 10-15 minutes after doing it 10 times! Not too shabby,.and I’m still amazed that I can do it.

Putting aside all the technical aspects of this challenge for a moment.. do you know what it’s like to bite into a whole drumstick filled with luscious stuffing, not worrying about the bone? It’s my favorite part to eat, BUT, you need to cut off the drumstick holding the knuckle at the end, because it melds into the chicken ballotine since there’s no bone to hold it up.  However, it’s lovely sliced within the roll, too; a mix of dark and white meat with the stuffing.

That said, butchers charge anywhere from $40.00 to even $80.00 to debone a whole chicken, so learning this skill saves you money too.  I guarantee that the ballotine will not only impress the heck out of your family and/or guests, but it will also elicit raves over the taste and texture. Everyone I’ve ever served it to went nuts for it, and always ask when I’m going to make it again.

How to debone a whole Chicken with Minimal Cutting and Chicken Ballotine with Red Rice Stuffing

On another note, I did not change anything in any of these recipes since, in my experience, I’ve never had a Jacques Pepin recipe, including this one, not turn out perfect in every single aspect. Both stuffing recipes were created for this Chicken Ballotine recipe by Jacques Pepin, so both are the perfect amount of stuffing to stuff and roll a 3 3/4 to 4 lb chicken.

Finally, I did not take photos of each step deboning the chicken because; 1) There would be like 50 messy photos that would confuse all of you, and 2) When you’re boning out/deboning a chicken, you’re in a zone, so stopping to wash your hands and take a photo of each cut and each pull would be tedious and distracting. I also didn’t want to contaminate my camera (if you have someone to shoot photos while you’re doing it, by all means, go for it!) , and 3) The video shows you every single step clearly. You need nothing but the video, hence this being a challenge by video.

How to debone a whole Chicken with Minimal Cutting and Chicken Ballotine with Red Rice Stuffing

How to Debone a Whole Chicken

Recipe Source: Essential Pepin –

For the April Daring Cooks Challenge, Lisa (Me) from Parsley, Sage and Sweet has challenged us to debone a whole chicken, using this video by Jacques Pepin as our guide; then stuff it, truss (tie) it and roast it, to create a Chicken Ballotine.

Mandatory Items: You must bone out a whole chicken, stuff it, roll it and tie it, also known as trussing it. The method of cooking it is your choice. If you absolutely cannot do a whole chicken, buy some whole chicken legs and debone the thigh and drumstick like he does in the video, then stuff and tie them shut. The sauce and chicken lollipops are not mandatory. I threw the wings into a stock I made afterwards.

Variations allowed: As mentioned above, if a whole chicken is too much, bone out and stuff some whole chicken legs. I’ve provided two recipes for stuffing from Jacques Pepin, specifically made for this Chicken Ballotine, but you can prepare and use any kind of stuffing you want. I’ve also given you the recipe for his sauce that goes with the Chicken Ballotine, but use any sauce you want, although it doesn’t need a sauce. It’s your choice whether to make one or not, it’s not a requirement. You may also poach your stuffed and tied (trussed) chicken if you’d like, for a Galantine of Chicken. in which I’ve provided a link for at the end of this post. You can find and use your own Chicken Galantine recipe, if desired.

If you want to use another bird such as duck, go right ahead. A friend once made some lovely Cornish game hen ballotines that were out of this world!

Note: Take your time with the wishbone, the first bone you will be cutting out. It tends to crack easily, and it can puncture your finger. Use towels for gripping the chicken when you cut and/or pull, if need be, since you know how slippery chicken can be. Most important – keep a clean area! Make sure everything is washed thoroughly before proceeding. After you’ve boned out the chicken, wash and sterilize everything – from the table to the cutting board, towels, knives etc. Finally, save the carcass and bones to make stock! Freeze in a freezer bag if you’re not going to make stock immediately..up to 1 year.

ALTERNATIVE COOKS – I’ve wracked my brain trying to come up with something as challenging for you all, but could not. So, stuff and roast a vegetable of your choice; do something we’ve almost never seen before!

Preparation time: The time it takes to debone a whole chicken is different for everyone. Take your time; learn as you go, and be careful.
Red Rice Stuffing – 1 hour and 5 minutes plus cooling time.
Spinach, Cheese and Bread Stuffing – About 5 – 10 minutes plus cooling time.
Sauce – 5-10 minutes
Whole Stuffed Chicken – 1 hour roasting time

Equipment required:
● A very sharp knife to cut off the wings (recommended: a chef’s knife)
● A very sharp knife that fits your hand comfortably to debone the chicken. (recommended: a boning or paring knife)
● Clean, sterile cutting board
● Lots of kitchen towels
● Cotton kitchen twine
● Roasting pan

Watch this video on youtube, where the screen is larger

How to debone a whole Chicken with Minimal Cutting and Chicken Ballotine with Spinach Cornbread Stuffing

Ballotine 2007 – I just found these photos from 2007 – my third ballotine.  This was before a food blog was even a glint in my eye, but apparently it was a premonition.  I thought these photos were AWESOME back then. Anyway, much better color on this ballotine because I rubbed it with butter instead of oil.  I think I made a spinach cornbread stuffing for this one, or it might have been the spinach, cheese and bread stuffing recipe below.

All of the recipes below were created by Jacques Pepin.

Ballotine of Chicken
Servings: 4 -6

1 chicken (about 3-3/4 to 4 pounds) (1-3/4 kg), boned as in video.
1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) (1¼ gm) salt
1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) (½ gm) freshly ground black pepper
Red Rice Stuffing or Spinach, Cheese, and Bread Stuffing (see recipes below)

1/3 cup (80 ml) water
1/2 cup (120 ml) dry red wine (you can substitute chicken or vegetable stock or fruit juice, such as grape)
1 celery stalk (2 oz) (60 gm), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch (1¼ cm) dice (1/2 cup) (120 ml)
1 small onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 carrot (2 oz) (60 gm), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch (1¼ cm) dice (1/3 cup) (80 ml)
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) potato starch OR cornstarch (4 gm), dissolved in 1 tablespoon (15 ml) water
1 tablespoon (15 ml) dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (4 gm) chopped fresh parsley

1 Preheat the oven to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6.

2 Lay the chicken skin side down on the work surface and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Spread the cool rice or spinach mixture evenly over the chicken – stuffing the legs too. If using the spinach stuffing, sprinkle the cheese and bread cubes on top of the spinach. Roll the chicken up, tie it (truss it) with kitchen string/twine, and place it in a roasting pan.

3. Roast the ballotine for about 1 hour or until the temperature is 160-165 degrees F in the center of the ballotine. I took mine out after 50 minutes and let it sit until it reached 165. Lift it from the pan and place it on a platter.

NOTES – My chicken didn’t brown very well as you can see in the photo below. even though I rubbed it with olive oil before seasoning it. I guess it’s just the luck of the draw. Try rubbing it with butter..or brushing it with melted butter, which has worked out well for me in the past as far as browning goes. A glaze of your choice, brushed on for the last 10 to 15 minutes of roasting will probably give you good color too. Also, I pounded the chicken prior to stuffing it to make for easier rolling. Place some plastic wrap over your deboned, open chicken, and flatten as best you can with a mallet or rolling pin.

For the sauce:
4. Skim off and discard most of the fat from the drippings in the pan. Add the water and wine to the drippings to deglaze the pan, and heat over medium heat, stirring to loosen and melt the solidified juices.

5. Strain the juices into a saucepan. Add the celery, onion, and carrot and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and boil gently for 5 minutes. Stir in the dissolved potato starch and soy sauce and bring the mixture back to a boil, stirring, to thicken it. Remove from the heat.

6. Transfer the ballotine to a cutting board and remove the string. Cut half of it into 4 or 5 slices, each about 1 inch thick. Return the uncut half of the ballotine to the serving platter and arrange the cut slices in front of it. Pour the sauce over and around the ballotine, garnish with the parsley, and serve. Cut additional slices of ballotine as needed at the table.

Red Rice Stuffing
1/2 cup (120 ml) (115 gm) (4 oz) Wehani rice, or any red or brown rice
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) chicken or vegetable stock or low-salt canned chicken broth or vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon (1 ¼ ml) (1½ gm) salt
1/2 ounce (15 gm) (about 1/2 cup) dried mushrooms, such as cèpes (porcini), rinsed and broken into pieces
1/2 large leek, trimmed (leaving some green), split, washed, and sliced (1 cup)
1 onion (4 ounces/120 gm), chopped (3/4 cup) (180 ml)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
1/4 cup (60 ml) water

1. Combine the rice, stock, salt, and dried mushrooms in a large saucepan and bring to a boil, then cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 1 hour, or until the rice is tender. Set the rice aside in the pan, uncovered.

2. Meanwhile, combine the leek, onion, oil, and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then cover, reduce the heat, and cook at a gentle boil for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook until all the water is gone. Add to the rice, mix well, and let cool to room temperature.

Spinach, Cheese, and Bread Stuffing
1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) finely chopped garlic
5 ounces (140 gm) baby spinach leaves
1/4 teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) salt
1/4 teaspoon (1¼ ml) (½ gm) freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups cubed (1/2-inch) (1¼ cm) bread
1 cup (240 ml) grated Gruyère or mozzarella cheese (about 4 ounces/115 gm)

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or skillet. Add the garlic, spinach, salt, and pepper and cook for 1 minute to soften the garlic and wilt the spinach. Remove from heat. Transfer to a bowl and and stir in the bread. Let cool to room temperature, then stir in the cheese.

Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips: Wrap up any leftovers tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. If not using bones, scraps and carcass from chicken for a stock or any other preparations, immediately, seal tightly in a freezer bag and freeze for up to 1 year.

Additional Information:
Chicken Galantine Recipe
Boning Knife Jacques uses in video – in case you’re interested

We like to keep the theme French when I make this, so we serve the ballotine with Lyonnaise Potatoes and haricot verts (skinny green beans).

How to debone a whole Chicken with Minimal Cutting and Chicken Ballotine with Red Rice Stuffing

Thanks to all who participated in this challenge and I hope those who have read through it here, try it soon!

Now..after all of this, I hope you will be saving room for dessert because boy do I have a dessert for you!  This is Jacques Pepin’s recipe for Vanilla Bean Creme Caramel.  A perfect dessert to pair with his lovely ballotine.

Go get the recipe; HERE.  Watch the video on how to make it, HERE.

NOTE – Add a vanilla bean or two along with the vanilla extract in written recipe.  Omit cognac in sugar syrup..or not.

The actual recipe I’m referring to for this creme caramel, which does not contain cognac, is in Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home.

Jaxques Pepin's Creme Caramel

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78 Responses to How to Debone a Whole Chicken for Chicken Ballotine or Galantine; My Daring Cooks Challenge

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